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25 Years Later: Endangered Species or Successful Evolution?

25 Years Later: Endangered Species or Successful Evolution?

The 1987 editorial from the inaugural issue of ONCOLOGY that is reprinted here—by Robert Wittes, MD, the journal’s founding Editor-in-Chief—reflects the keen mind that all who know Bob Wittes have long admired. Dr. Wittes mused that the new journal was a unique species that would fill an ecological niche in medical publishing. He then went on to spell out the mission of the journal—the aims, format, and business plan that would give it the “selective advantages” to make it ideally adapted to that niche.

The overarching purpose of the journal would be to synthesize burgeoning medical information in a manner that would meet the needs of practicing clinicians. More specifically, Dr. Wittes’ charge for ONCOLOGY was:

The Evolution of Medical Journals: Why “Oncology”?; From the March 1987 issue of ONCOLOGY

• To address the practical management of patients.

• To cover the whole spectrum of relevant subspecialties.

• To deal directly with the controversies in medical decision making.

These goals were to be accomplished through a core of solicited review articles surveying current topics of importance, whether broad or narrow. The articles would cover new developments only if they were of high interest, and all submitted articles would undergo peer review and would be required to demonstrate relevance to clinical practice. In addition, a unique format would be used: each paper would be accompanied by two commentaries that would highlight areas of consensus or disagreement. This format would provide a more complete discussion of controversial issues than is possible with traditional letters-to-the-editor.

It appears, after 25 years of publication, that ONCOLOGY developed a successful model that anticipated the future. The interest in and the success of the “article-plus-commentaries” format led to its adoption by many medical societies in their conferences’ plenary sessions. The business plan, by which ONCOLOGY is provided free of charge to medical professionals caring for cancer patients, has remained intact through a wide range of economic conditions because of the perceived value of the journal’s contents. While ONCOLOGY has continued to evolve along with the field of oncology—for example, it now addresses critical issues of science and socioeconomics—it has remained true to Dr. Wittes’ founding principles and paradigm. Perhaps largely for this reason, the journal continues to be widely read across the entire oncology community.

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